Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Polish "King's Feast"

Krowleskie Jadlo, meaning "King's Feast," is a Polish restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn that transports you to Eastern Europe. With open doors flanked by twin suits of armor, long wooden tables in a cozy midevil-style tavern, and massive plates of food piled high with traditional Polish food, you feel as if you've stepped out of hipster-ville Brooklyn into a restaurant in Krakow. There's even a decorative shield with crossed swords on the bathroom wall - like a slightly more authentic (and menacing) Disneyworld attraction.
Polish food, is of course, based on meat and potatoes, with the expected staples such as borscht soup and stuffed pierogis (Polish dumplings); it's "homey" fare. Yet the "King's Feast" aims to serve more elegant, noble dishes in addition to the traditional peasant classics, to emulate midevil Polish kings' dining. These more refined dishes include roasted duck legs, venison meatballs with wild mushroom truffle sauce, grilled pheasant breast with balsamic fig sauce, and stuffed quails with morels. None of these dishes exceed $14 - an excellent price for meals with more obscure proteins, especially in New York. In addition to the starkly Polish blood sausage and Hunters Stew, they serve more modern gourmet pierogis such as those stuffed with spinach and goat cheese with a chanterelle mushroom sauce to appeal to vegetarian palates. It's a real dining experience.

The meal began with a cutting board of bread served with lard and pickles. The traditional Polish platter, with stuffed cabbage, potato pancakes, pierogis, and kielbasa:

Accompanied, of course, by sauerkrout, more cabbage, and beets.
Sampling a more elegant "King's Feast" dish, the wild boar stuffed with figs and spinach, served with horseradish potatoes and a cognac pepper sauce:
And a creamy hot chocolate for dessert. (Something tells me they didn't use skim milk.)
Despite all their attempts to provide upscale Polish cuisine, the rich dishes have all of the heaviness of boiled potatoes and gravy - it's "stick to your ribs" food that sits in your stomach like a brick. We enjoyed our cultural trip, but all agreed it's a one-time experience.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Autumn Entertaining



A Dinner Party That’s Warm, Welcoming and Meatless

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Farro and fresh tomato soup with basil.

WHENEVER I wanted to whip up a meatless meal for company, I’d fall back on the time-honored strategy of pouring in the cheese, eggs, butter and cream to make everything seem festive and satisfying.


Instead of adding bacon to a dish, I would blanket it in runny Gruyère. Or put dollops of fresh ricotta on pasta in place of meatballs. Then I met my husband, Daniel, who doesn’t eat dairy products, and my occasional vegetarian meals often became vegan.

Surprisingly, the longer I have done without the cheese and cream, the less I’ve missed them — and the more creative and interesting those meals have become.

That’s especially true in early autumn. This is the traditional harvest season, when a head-spinning number of gorgeous fruits and vegetables ripen all at once. It’s when summer and fall converge; when the first tiny brussels sprouts, orange and blue pumpkins and lusciouspears meet the last of the juicy tomatoes and the season’s final, florid peppers.

Which means, it’s the ideal time to give a dinner party without having to rely on meat or dairy to make the meal feel like a celebration.

Instead, I like to wow my guests by frying feathery maitake mushrooms (also known as hen-of-the-woods) in olive oil until they are crunchy and brittle, and strewing them over a platter of creamy, coriander-spiked hummus.

In lieu of the usual chips or pita, I serve this with homemade sesame-studded flatbreads that bring out the nutty tahini nuance of the hummus. A nearby platter of juicy-crisp vegetables — fennel, radishes, celery — can be dipped or separately nibbled, and provide a snappy counterbalance to all that oily richness.

It goes perfectly with a dish of crisp kale to nosh on, seasoned with lime and chile.

Fall is also a perfect time for hearty, vegetable-based soups, especially tomato. Tomatoes tend to be mushy this time of year, just begging to be puréed into satiny sweetness.

To mimic the creaminess of many tomato soup recipes, I often blend softly stewed tomatoes with a grain, in this case, farro. It adds an earthy flavor, and body, to make a tomato soup with bona fide stick-to-your ribs inclinations.

Although I could easily make a meal of soup, homemade bread and hummus, most dinner parties demand some kind of centerpiece, a focal point to make people gather around and say “ooh.”

A savory, olive oil-crusted tart stuffed full of golden, roasted peppers, jammy onions and some freshly grated pumpkin fits the bill. I like to salt the pumpkin ahead of time to draw out excess moisture, though if you are pressed for time you can skip this step.

To perk up the caramelized intensity of the filling, it is helpful to fold in something zingy like olive or capers, or perhaps a good splash of lemon juice.No meal for company is complete without a special salad. Recently, I have become smitten with the powerfully bitter flavor of dandelion greens. To mellow out their intensity, I’ve been tossing them in a dressing made from sweetly confited garlic and topped with crunchy croutons. The whole concoction is vaguely reminiscent of a sweet-tempered Caesar with a funkier, spunkier foundation.

For dessert, most people are drawn to something luscious and creamy, albeit in this case without the actual cream. Coconut milk is an excellent substitute, especially when simmered into a thick, nearly candied butterscotch sauce to spoon over oven-roasted pears.

Finally, to round it all out, a few squares of bitter chocolate cut the sugar and provide a modest caffeine boost that stimulates conversation and helps your dinner party stretch long into the night. After all, isn’t that why you invited your friends over in the first place?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Roasted Apple and Fennel Salad

I made this salad for dinner tonight on the recommendation of my mom, using a recipe from the Post:

Roasted Apple and Fennel Salad

This salad is hearty enough to serve as a meal with a good crusty baguette. Fill it out with some chunks of roasted chicken or crisp bacon if you like. Smoked Gouda or Spanish Idiazabal may be substituted for the smoked cheddar.


  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 sweet-firm apples, such as Mutsu, Fuji or Honeycrisp, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-inch wedges
  • 1 large (about 1 pound) head fennel, trimmed, cut into quarters, cored and then cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 1 large head frisee (about 6 ounces), trimmed, cored and broken into leaves
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 5 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, shaved into strips (use a vegetable peeler)
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh tarragon leaves
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (see headnote)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 large shallot, cut into small dice (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup toasted Marcona almonds, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with silicone liners or aluminum foil.

Combine 2 tablespoons of the oil, 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper in a small bowl.

Spread the apple wedges on one baking sheet and the fennel wedges on the other sheet (in a single layer). Divide the oil mixture between them, tossing to coat the wedges evenly. Roast for about 15 minutes, turning the ingredients over after about 10 minutes, until the apples soften and brown lightly and the fennel is tender when pierced with a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes. (The fennel may take slightly longer than the apples.) Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, gently toss the frisee, spinach, cheddar and tarragon in a large bowl.

Whisk together the vinegar, mustard and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Continue to whisk as you gradually add the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil, to form an emulsified dressing. Stir in the shallot; taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Add the roasted apples and fennel wedges to the frisee mixture along with half of the vinaigrette. Toss well.

Divide among individual plates. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette (to taste), and sprinkle with the almonds.